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Why the Houston Rockets have an answer to the NBA’s problems

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Chris Paul getting traded to the Houston Rockets was one of the biggest moves of the NBA offseason.

Chris Paul getting traded to the Houston Rockets was one of the biggest moves of the NBA offseason.

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Chris Paul getting traded to the Houston Rockets was one of the biggest moves of the NBA offseason.

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For the past three years, NBA fans have had to watch the same two teams, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, compete for the championship in June. Furthermore, a single player, Lebron James, has reached the NBA Finals for seven straight years. This has lead fans to question everything about the league. How long will Golden State reign over the league? Will Lebron ever show he’s aging? Which team will step up and upset either the Warriors or Cavaliers?

Fans started to get answers last NBA off-season, as many teams were looking to make moves in order to truly contend with teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers. On June 28th, the Los Angeles Clippers traded All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for multiple role players and future draft picks. This trade started a trend last off-season, as many teams across the league traded or signed big stars. As the season opener approached, many teams looked as if they were lined up to contend for a championship. Superstars such as Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and Carmelo Anthony had all gotten deals to play for other teams. With last off-season being dubbed by many as the most exciting ever, all fans had to do was wait for October 17th, the season opener, to start getting answers.

“I think that the Chris Paul trade had the biggest impact on the NBA last off-season,” Anthony Lapiana, sophomore, said. “I think the Thunder and Timberwolves are right there too, they just aren’t playing together yet. The way Paul transitioned into Houston is the reason that they’re dominating, he and James Harden are destroying teams each night.”

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Harden and Paul makes up arguably the best backcourt in the NBA.

Last season, Houston finished the regular season third in the western conference, behind just the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. Lead by MVP runner-up James Harden, Houston advanced to the conference semi-finals before being eliminated by the Spurs. It was evident that if Houston were to contend, they needed to surround Harden with more talent. With Paul and Harden now teaming up to make arguably the best back-court in the league, it seemed as if they now had a legitimate chance to take on the Warriors. On opening night, the match-up was set, as Houston headed into Oakland to face the Warriors on their banner night.

“While Paul and Harden have been looking dominant, there is more to their success than just those two,” AJ Datoli, sophomore, said. “It’s the guys like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza that are also making a huge difference. Houston probably has the best chemistry and bench in the league.”

As many fans watched the Warriors raise their championship banner and receive their rings, most were more focused on the duo of Paul and Harden. The Warriors jumped out to an early lead, and headed into the halftime locker room up 71-62. It seemed as if the Warriors dynasty hadn’t slowed down a bit, as their superstars, former MVPs Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, were too much for Houston. But the second half was a different story. The Rockets came out and refused to give up, as the game was very close from there on out. With the game tied at 121, Houston forward P.J. Tucker was sent to the free throw line. He made one of his two shots to put Houston up 122-121 with 44 seconds left. The Warriors had the ball and got it to Curry who put up a three pointer with six seconds left, but he missed. Durant got the rebound and made what would’ve been the game winner, but the buzzer had already sounded and the Houston Rockets had handed the Warriors a loss on opening night.

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
James Harden and the Rockets spoiled the Warriors’ banner night.

Fast forward to today’s date, the world finally looks like they might have gotten their answer. Not only do the Rockets hold the second best record in the NBA, but in games that Chris Paul has started (he has missed games due to injury) they are 18-4. Heading into this week, Houston is in second in the west (behind just Golden State) and is averaging 115 points per game, the second best in the league. They are just 4 games back of the Warriors for the top seed with the majority of the regular season remaining. As of right now, it looks like Houston is the most legitimate threat to upset the warriors dynasty.

“Since they got Chris Paul they have become an elite team,” Sam Grabau, sophomore, said. “Right now I believe they are the only legitimate threat the Warriors in the west. Harden and Paul have been lighting it up together. I think that if the Rockets and Warriors met in the playoffs it would be a really exciting series.”

But it isn’t just the addition of Paul that is helping Houston remain the best in the league, James Harden has stepped up his game a lot as well. After finishing runner-up for MVP two seasons in a row, Harden has continued to improve his game in order to reach his ultimate goal. This season he is averaging a league high, 31.5 points per game. Pair that with 9.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds, Harden now looks as if he is the favorite to win MVP this season due to his outstanding numbers and team success. With all the focus on Paul and Harden, role players have stepped up big time as well. Eric Gordon is making a great case for sixth man of the year, averaging nearly 20 points off the bench. And third year center Clint Capela seems to finally have found himself. He is averaging a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, both are career highs. Come June of 2018, we should get the answers to all of these questions.

Photo courtesy of thekicker.com
Will the Rockets de-throne the Warriors? Will James Harden finally win MVP?

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Why the Houston Rockets have an answer to the NBA’s problems